Wednesday 29 September 2010

A "Little Friend" for the 8th USAAF: 1/144 P51D Mustang

Saviour of the USAAF over the Reich, the fighter that defeated the Luftwaffe in the contest of the skies. Sure the Thunderbolt was the heavy-weight bruiser, but the Mustang could mix it and regain altitude to return to defend the bomber formation.

When "drop-tanked" its range was phenomenal, even visiting Polish airspace on operation sorties in late 1944/45. To quote from Johnnie Johnson's "Full Circle: The Story of Air Fighting":
There was great competition among American fighter pilots to get their hands on the Mustang, Don Blakeslee pleaded with his general to exchange their old Thunderbolts for them. But a great daylight offensive was planned, the Normandy invasion would take place within three month and so the general answered that he did not see how Blakeslee's group could become non-operational for several weeks while they retrained on to the new fighter. 'That's OK, General, sir," replied Don "We can learn how to fly them on the way to the target!" 
Not infeasible if you consider the length of the journeys to and from the Reich, but also a measure of how the American fighter pilots felt they had to so something for their compatriots flying in the daily massed bomber formations.

Meanwhile, this is a nice little kit from Academy, not much to it parts-wise but it paints up a peach.  

Monday 27 September 2010

1/144 P38J Lightning

Flown in both European and Pacific theatres it came into its own in the latter, where the huge distances afforded its range to be utilised to full effect.

The wargame project associated with this model is the ambush (nay assassination) of the Japanese Admiral Yamato. The full battle would need six Zero close escort, two Betty bombers and four hunting P38J's.

As the close escort and bombers split up when "bounced" it is justifiable to half the scenario planes again. Therefore I am half way there with a Betty, a Zero and another P38J away from an interesting club-night game.

Another Academy kit.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Japanese Air Power 1/144 Scale

Scourge of the Pacific air space, certainly in the early war period is the Japanese Zero. Here shown are two of the "Sweet Models" in 1/144 scale. A killer pair:

And then circling round solo for the kill:

Something that would give the pilot of my earlier Brewster Buffalo posting nightmares.

The "Sweet Models" are incredibly detailed for their size, nothing to put-together and a real joy to paint (even decal).

Thursday 23 September 2010

Red Muscle the T34/76

What wargame collection is complete without the ubiquitous T34 of 1941 era? Fast, rugged, punchy and well armoured, sloping to boot. Its tactical deployment in the early years of the war was its only undoing. Nevertheless it blunted the Blitzkrieg and was a Hero Of The Soviet Union in its own right.

This is not a matching pair. The chap on the left is a Fujimi 1/76 and the AAMG version to the left is perhaps my favourite Matchbox (now back out in Revell colours) tank kit. Prime choice for the Commanders tank.

Again an old couple whose life together started in Aberdeen and finally were painted and "decalled" to completion in England.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

152 reasons to be wary of Russian tanks

Bar the crazy, multi-turreted T-35 land-tank the KV-2 has got to be the front runner as the strangest Russian tank (early war?). To call it a "tank" may be stretching its definition as it was primarily a 152mm "Bunker Buster", Like certain WWI dreadnoughts (HMS Agincourt and the Invincible/Super-Invincible class battle cruisers come to mind) it could run into trouble if it discharged a broadside without being first firmly footed.

A behemoth it truly was.

Tip: If you are a small (20mm, 1/72 or 1/76) plastic/metal German wargame infantryman and you can read the writing on the side of the KV-2 then you are too probably close (Teller mine in hand or not).

Destruction of fortifications like the Finnish Mannerheim Line are its true purpose in life, but its mere existence scared the pants off the German Panzerwaffe in 1941. Encountered during the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa it corrected the false German belief in that the Panzer IV F1 was a true "heavy" tank.

This is the 1/76 Fujimi kit, bought fifteen years ago in Aberdeen, gradually built and painted in fits and starts. I will have to turn my recent "bare plastic" kits into a form like the above (note: even decals). I still like it and think it holds it own after despite its modelling age.

PS I thought one these was more than enough for any wargame army but I notice Paul from Plastic Warriors has a troop of three!

Sunday 19 September 2010

Russian Heavy Metal

Just to prove that not all my tanks have black crosses on them. Indeed something to scare any German tank commander in 1941. The KV1:

Even more dangerous when they prowled in packs. As seen from a Luftwaffe Henchel 129 ground strafing plane (which explains the blur):

These are all 1/76 Fujimi models, built well over a decade ago, eventually painted in a summer green and decalled. A recent addition to the fold is:

The Trumpeter 1/72 kit is a recent acquisition put together over the summer. Exceedingly nice to make and waiting a decision on painting pattern. Lots of parts on the wheels though, so it was less haste more speed and slowly sipping my way through the build. I'll probably go with the Russian winter white-wash over faded summer green. Company for the old plastic Revell Siberians I have painted.

Friday 17 September 2010

IJN Aircraft Carriers: Kaga and Akagi touch-ups

As I seem to be in a rather "naval" mode and mindset at the minute I was looking over my 1/3000 collection and say that the IJNS Kaga and Akagi had a spot of finishing to do on their flightdecks.

At the same time I decided to press on with the IJNS Hiryo and Soryu from the "killer six" Pearl harbour CVs.

The IJNS Shokaku and Zuikaku have finally made it out of their bags. I was most impressed by the actual size of the latter ships and their modern sleek looks.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Narvil [11]: Outcome of First Battle of Narvik

With the end of the blockade skirmish the loose ends from the First Battle of Narvil draw to a close.

Honours to both sides, but the Germans have the edge as they have a destroyer force that can attempt to make a dash back for Germany (or at the very least Trondhiem which is in German hands). Bunched up for the dash:

Then spread out for the Swordfish attack from HMS Furious (and she jolly well is after the indignantly of HMS Penelope's amidships)!

The RN is stepping up preparations to attack the remaining forces in Narvik (the battleship HMS Warspite and a gaggle of Fleet destroyers), which should be a rather one-sided affair.

Monday 13 September 2010

New Airfix Tiger Tank Starter Kit

Can anybody shed any light on this?

The old (without ammunition bin on the back of the turret) Airfix Tiger Tank kit is still about and retailing at £4.99 in the shops (UK). However I was in Model Craft and say a Airfix Starter Kit, with a nice new box art cover. Not a sand coloured Tiger #332 in the desert/Tunisia but a sand and green Tiger in Normandy (with a Sherman 76mm brewing in the background).

What really caught my eye was the nice cover art line drawing of the Tiger with a stowage bin on the back. Hmmm, interesting.Have they done the decent thing and finally retooled it?

Unfortunately retailing at £6.99 I resisted the urge to buy (having plenty of cats already) and I didn't just break into the box, but I am dying to know if the cover matches with the kit inside, as in this implies new tooling. I scanned the Airfix site but cannot see it in their releases, nor does Google Images help but something new is in the shops, strange?

Can anyone offer any help here?

Saturday 11 September 2010

Narvik [10]: End Game, Turn Towards or Away?

The scorecard so far:

RN with HMS Penelope scores two German destroyers crippled and one still to get (before it manages to get cheeky with a "fish" or two in the water). At a cost of just a third of her ammunition quota (better have a chit ready).

KM: Barely scratched the paint work on HMS Penelope (for the loss of the above) 

Now the 'precarious' sequence of play, well known to General Quarters destroyer captains, comes into play. In order for Z5 to launch its torpedoes she has to survive a maelstrom of gunfire from HMS Penelope, in the 'minimum range' bracket to boot, with everything blasting at 'rapid fire' rate, a rather tall order. Especially if you are the last remaining viable destroyer in the attack.  

The die is cast. Z5 (topmost in the picture) takes savage damage on the hull (three boxes and is reduced to 3 inches speed) and also loses half her armaments, but 'importantly' still possesses one set of good torpedo tubes (4 fish). Meanwhile Z4 (lower left) positions herself cheekily for a long/extreme range torpedo pop (4) at HMS Penelope.

Some recompense is gained from the guns of Z5 as they are at last effective too, scoring one and a half hull boxes, penetrating her armour and causing Penelope's speed to drop to nine inches, ouch (but nowhere near fatal). The KM has somehow managed to put eight fish in the water, something serious at last for HMS Penelope's captain to think about.

The commander HMS Penelope now has the same dilemma faced by Admiral John Jellicoe at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. To turn towards or away from a torpedo attack? The German commanders have already scribbled their torpedo directions in classic GQ style, trying desperately to remember which is Port and which is Starboard in relation to the target ship (not an easy thing in the heat of battle). HMS Penelope moves, ordering a "turn hard to Starboard helmsman" at the torpedoes not away (the safer option).

Did he guess right? The papers are revealed: Z4 fired behind (miss) but Z5 fired to starboard (an attack die is rolled at a shortened range).

The classic way of representing a torpedo fan: pipe cleaners.

Crash, a huge column of water erupts amidships of HMS Penelope. Three full hull boxes and one full armament box damage, HMS Penelope immediately pulls up dead in the water with only half a hull box remaining. Technically (with that half hull box) she still has power (RN breath a huge sigh of relief) and thus her guns immediately cripple Z5 on the next round, removing all the remaining armament boxes and leaving her dead in the water too with only a half hull box.

Z3 and Z4 make good there escape under cover of smoke, while Z5 and HMS Penelope stare at each other.

HMS Penelope's captain cursing his luck on one hand but is thankful to be still afloat on the other. He wants to conserve his depleted ammunition stock so refrains from sinking the rather hapless (but valiant) Z5. The question is which sides reinforcements will turn up next? At least HMS Penelope can attempt to defend herself (though now at the 50% ammunition used point).

Damage control parties in Z5 regain creep speed propulsion and seeing the 'prize' attempting to depart, HMS Penelope promptly despatches Z5 to the bottom. On the horizon the RN destroyers HMS Hero and HMS Ilex appear and the tactical game closes down as HMS Penelope engines start on "creep speed" and she heads back to Scapa with her ASW escort. 

Next: Taking stock?

Thursday 9 September 2010

Narvik [9]: Death Ride of the German Destroyers

With each successive salvo from HMS Penelope Z3 suffered grievously. Soon Z3 was little more than a wreck. Her speed reduced to 3 inches and upper armament swept away, holding on to a set of torpedo tubes as her only offensive weapon. In an act of calculated desperation Z4 and Z5 charged head on to HMS Penelope out of the protective smoke-screen..

HMS Penelope was still  in complete control of the engagement choosing to shorten the range only for her own benefit with ruthless efficiency. The German guns were still reliant on getting "lucky hits" because even the light armour (LC) of the cruiser was sufficient to protect her at the 30" bands from the German 5" guns. Girding their loins for more losses the German destroyer pair pressed the attack.

Z3 dropped astern retiring back to Narvik. Soon Z4 staggered and sagged under the weight of 'Main' and 'Secondary' armament from HMS Penelope despite violent evasive actions. The cruiser was an altogether better gun platform and her shooting in turn was good. Z4 was reduced to half (6 inch) speed and half her armament boxes were set ablaze. She hung in for the hope of a long range torpedo shot. Z5 knew her turn was next, but at least now the range, although it meant murderous incoming, allowed at last for potentially effective German return fire. 

To be continued ...

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Narvik (8): The encounter with HMS Penelope - First Rounds

The "destroyer" that to the horror of the watching Germans turned out to be in fact a "six inch cruiser", the irrepressible "HMS Penelope" (later known as HMS Pepper-pot when serving in the Mediterranean because of the daylight that streamed through the many, many holes the Germans and Italians put into her, yet she still survived).

Her mission to blockade and report on any enemy activity in the vicinity of Narvik.

The deep-blue sea base is my experiment with "cheap oils". Lessons learned being that they take an age to dry! Meanwhile leading the German force into battle is destroyer Z3 followed by Z4 and Z5.

First blood to the RN as Z3 is immediately straddled, good shooting Penelope at the twilight 40" range bracket.  Lucky shots or the taste of things to come?

Z3 makes smoke to cover Z4 & Z5 as the Germans attempt to "close the range". Hoping that Z3 can take the punishment stoically and still remain afloat. Logic being at this range the traffic is all one way in the RN's favour, the destroyers need to half the range to be effective with their gunfire and perhaps have a sporting chance with a torpedo attack. Strategically the Germans want to punch a hole in the blockade and make a run home to Germany with at least some of the destroyers.

It looks likely to be a bloody affair though if HMS Penelope keeps up her good shooting.

To be Continued ...

Sunday 5 September 2010

More Shermans (HaT and Tank Magazine)

Coming out of the box two at a time from the HaT range, the Sherman M4A2 version, destined to be painted up in 8th Army desert camouflage for Operation Supercharge in the Battle of El Alemain 1942 project:

They will round up a composite tank battalion. To go with my:
  • Three painted Hasagawa Crusader Mk III's.
  • Three partially painted Airfix Crusaders
  • Two unpainted Hasagawa Grants
  • One Airfix unpainted Grant
  • Two unpainted Matchbox (yes they are old) M3 Honey's. 
Against which I plan to throw an assorted bunch of Axis DAK and Italian armour + Anti Tank guns (the latter of which needs to be fleshed out somewhat).

Meanwhile in France near the borders of Germany:

This ("too bright a green" which desperately needs some weathering and application of mud) M4A3 Sherman of the 756th Tank Battalion of the US 5th Army. As its gun is shorter than my other US Sherman's it will probably be designated as the 105mm Howitzer of the battalion (yes, yet another 20mm Tank Battalion project).

PS: This was another £2.99 bargain at the Yorkshire Trading Company store:)

Friday 3 September 2010

Modern (Post WWII) Russian T-55A (1968)

It feels like cheating getting ready made kits but it was a bargain to boot.

Upfront I must confess I have been very envious of the wargamer blogger tales of the Tank Magazine miniatures from down south (NZ and Oz). In the UK I seemed to totally miss its appearance. However I found this little chap sitting in an outlet that sells/specialises in end-of-stock specials (aka the Yorkshire Trading Store).

T-55A Polish Army Prague(Czechoslovakia) - 1968

No magazine just the tank retailing at £2.99, sadly there was only this kit and one other left in stock. It is very nicely put together, functional as per the real thing. It did have a minor accident with a wheel came off as I unshipped it but I managed to repair it with a bit of superglue :)

Something for a Chieftain or a Centurion to poke its nose at circa 1970! 20mm Skirmish game material I think.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

HaT's T34-85

Will this show of raw naked plastic ever end? Perhaps not, this time it was two banged together T34-85's from HaT.

The T34-85 in its late-war guise needs numbers to intimidate. The HaT boxes help by giving you two at a time, costing out in bulk the cheapest buts as good as my Fujimi and old Airfix versions. It is a use tank to have as its active life-span stretches well into the latter part of the twentieth century.

These I think are simply destined to become part of the late-war Red Army. 

In summary an easy build that I enjoyed doing :)